By MIKE SCHNEIDERAssociated Press
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Statements a former neighborhood watch leader made to detectives after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin can be released to the public, a judge ruled Wednesday.
But Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said that the identities of witnesses who observed the fatal confrontation in February between George Zimmerman and the 17-year-old Martin can stay private, provided the witnesses haven't been identified previously.
"The innocent witnesses who have performed their civic or moral duty by reporting what they observed to law enforcement should not have their lives turned upside-down for having done so," Lester wrote.
Lester's ruling was in response to a challenge news media groups, including The Associated Press, filed against efforts to seal some records.
Prosecutors and Zimmerman's defense attorney had wanted to keep both Zimmerman's statements and the witnesses' identities private. They had argued that their public release would jeopardize Zimmerman's chance of getting a fair hearing when he is tried for second-degree murder. Zimmerman claims the shooting was in self-defense.
The judge said disclosing Zimmerman's statements to police detectives wouldn't jeopardize his ability to get a fair trial. He also ruled that tests given to Zimmerman after the shooting could be released, as well as some crime-scene photos and Zimmerman's recorded telephone calls from jail.
Some of those jailhouse calls involve Zimmerman directing his wife, Shellie, to transfer funds raised on a website to different bank accounts. Those jailhouse calls were cited by prosecutors, who successfully asked the judge to revoke Zimmerman's $150,000 bond earlier this month. Prosecutors accuse Zimmerman and his wife of misleading the judge about how much money they had available for his bond at a bail hearing in April. Shellie Zimmerman was arrested Tuesday on a charge of making a false statement under oath.
Zimmerman has a second bond hearing scheduled for the end of the month.
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